Stitching to finally be staged in Malta, eight years after controversial ban

A recent European Court of Human Rights ruling overturned a decision by the Maltese courts to uphold a 2009 ban on the play

Unifaun theatre director Adrian Buckle
Unifaun theatre director Adrian Buckle

The play ‘Stitching’ will finally be staged in Malta, eight years after a court judgment upheld a controversial ban on the production by the new-defunct censorship board.

The play, written by Scottish playwright Anthony Neilson, has been performed in several countries. But its 2009 ban in Malta prompted uproar over censorship, leading then Culture Minister Mario de Marco to present a law for the self-regulation of theatre productions.

“Unifaun Productions can confirm that its long awaited production of the Anthony Neilson play Stitching will be performed at the Teatru Manoel Studio Theatre from the 14th September,” the production company said in a statement.

“Following the ruling by the European Court of Human rights, theatregoers will finally be able to deliver their own verdict on this controversial but surprisingly moral and tender play.”

The censorship board’s 2009 ban on the play was upheld by the Malta’s courts with Justice Joseph Zammit McKeon arguing in his judgment the censorship board acted correctly that the values of a country could not be turned on their head simply in the name of freedom of expression. He said it was unacceptable in a "democratic society founded on the rule of law" for any person, no matter what they did, to be allowed to swear in public - even in a theatre as part of a script.

The decision was last month overturned by the European Court of Human Rights, which awarded €10,000 as legal costs as well as €10,000 in moral damages jointly to Unifaun Theatre Productions Limited, as well as director Chris Gatt and actors Pia Zammit and Mike Basmadjian.

Unifaun's production's ban was confirmed by the Constitutional Court of Appeal, after it was flagged by the now defunct Film and Stage Classification Board.

The Maltese court had ignored the producers' arguments that Anthony Neilson's play about a couple coming to terms with the loss of a child had been taken out of context and requested to perform it in court on the grounds that a script is a work of art that is only half-formed, and needs actors to give it meaning. 

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